Georg Böhm Biography (BBC)
A member of the great school of German organist-composers which culminated in J. S. Bach, Georg Böhm was born in Hohenkirchen in Thuringia in 1661. Details of his musical education are somewhat hazy. His father was a schoolteacher and organist, and it was from him that he received his first training until the latter’s death in 1675. Böhm’s general schooling then continued at seminaries in Goldbach and Gotha, where there were also musicians from whom he could learn, many of them former pupils of members of the widespread Bach family. In 1684 Böhm graduated from the University of Jena, though it is not known in what discipline.
By 1693 he was in the important commercial and artistic centre that was Hamburg, and while again we do not know of any formal studies, he must have heard and met the eminent organist Johann Adam Reincken, and may also have played in the orchestra at the opera under Johann Sigismund Kusser. It is probable, too, that he made trips to hear two famous organists at nearby towns: Vincent Lübeck at Stade, and the great Dietrich Buxtehude at Lübeck. His own big break came in 1698 when the post of organist at the Johanniskirche in Lüneburg became vacant, and Böhm applied successfully. The teenage J. S. Bach attended school in Lüneburg from 1700 to 1703, and it is possible that Böhm gave him some musical instruction. Certainly they must have known each other; a minuet by Böhm in the notebook Bach compiled for his second wife Anna Magdalena in 1725 may have been a wedding present. Although Böhm held the Lüneburg post until his death in 1733, little else is known of this period of his life.
Böhm is remembered today principally for his keyboard music, which had a demonstrable influence on Bach. As well as organ chorales for use in the Lutheran liturgy, he composed a number of chorale partite or variations, seemingly for domestic rather than church use and perhaps intended for the harpsichord, as for sure were his 11 highly attractive keyboard suites. His vocal music is rarely heard today, but consists of a handful of church cantatas and motets, and at least two Passions, one lost and one formerly thought to have been by Handel.
Profile © Lindsay Kemp
Georg Böhm Tracks